A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN ^55 He now had an object in life: to fly a fighter plane; and he set out to pursue that object with the same fanatical stubbornness as he had displayed when he crawled to the partisans. Accustomed from early youth to look ahead, he first of all precisely defined for himself what he must do in order to achieve his object, without wasting precious time. And so he decided, first, that he must recover quickly, recover the health and strength he had lost when he had starved, and, therefore, that he must eat more and sleep more. Second, he must recover the fighting qualities of an airman and therefore develop himself physically by such gymnastic exercises as a bed- ridden man is capable of doing. Third, and this was the most important and difficult part, he must train what was left of his legs so as to preserve their strength and agility, and later, when he received his artificial limbs, to learn to fly a plane with them. Even to walk is not an easy matter for a footless man. Meresyev, however, was determined to pilot an aircraft, and a fighter plane at that. To do that, particularly in an air battle, when everything is calculated to a fraction of a second and movements must synchronise to a degree equal to that of an unconditioned reflex, the feet must be able to perform operations as precise, skilful and above all as rapid as those performed by the hands. He must train himself to such a degree that the pieces of wood and leather attached to the stumps of his legs should perform these operations like living members of the body. A man familiar with the technique of flying would regard this as impossible, but Alexei was now convinced that it was possible, and that being the case, he would achieve it without fail. And so he set about carrying out his plan. He began to take all the treatments and medicines prescribed for him with a punctiliousness that surprised himself. He ate a great deal and always asked for a second helping even if he had no particular appe- tite. Whatever the circumstances, he forced himself to take the prescribed number of hours of sleep and even trained himself to take an after-dinner nap, which was abhorrent to his active and vivacious nature.